Idaho Republicans are leveraging their control of the state legislature to advance a bill that seems informational on its face, but in practice would likely funnel people seeking abortion care to crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs).
Sponsored by Rep. Ron Nate (R-Rexburg), HB 516 requires abortion providers to hand out a list of locations, compiled by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, where an abortion patient can get a free ultrasound.
The House State Affairs Committee voted to introduce the bill Wednesday with the panel’s four Democrats in opposition, the Times-News reported. Democrats, according to Associated Press reports, questioned the vetting process for the list, concerned that most of the facilities with free ultrasounds would be anti-choice CPCs.
State and federal investigations have found that CPCs, typically religious organizations staffed by anti-choice activists who offer free pregnancy tests in addition to ultrasounds, deliberately overstate the risks of abortion to dissuade patients from ending their pregnancies. Investigations have shown that CPC staffers often promise financial support to pregnant people considering abortion care.
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Cities and some states, like California, have enacted laws to reign in CPCs’ deceptive practices.
“This is one of many bills we’ve see that are aimed at shaming women and getting in between women and their abortion providers,” Hannah Brass Greer, legislative director of Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest and Hawaii, said in an interview with Rewire.
Rep. Vito Barbieri (R-Dalton Gardens), voting in favor of the bill, admitted that he sits on the board of a northern Idaho CPC that offers free ultrasounds.
“We have offered free ultrasounds since its inception in 2001,” Barbieri said. “And we are one of several in this state that do so. I’m going to support this bill.”
National Right to Life, one of the nation’s most prominent anti-choice groups, backs the Republican measure.
The House State Affairs Committee could hold a public hearing on the bill as early as next week.
Idaho Republicans advanced a slew of abortion restrictions in 2015, according to Rewire’s database, including GOP-backed measures to limit medication abortion and telemedicine abortion care.
Idaho, according to the Guttmacher Institute, requires parental consent for abortion, has a forced 24-hour waiting period, and state-directed counseling that includes information to discourage a patient from ending a pregnancy. State law also sharply restricts insurance coverage for abortion care.
The most recent figures from the Guttmacher Institute indicate the number of abortions in the state has dropped 8 percent since 2008.
CORRECTION: This post has been updated to clarify the status of the bill.